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Page added on December 14, 2013

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Sun Is Weakest in a Century

Sun Is Weakest in a Century thumbnail

The sun’s current space-weather cycle is the most anemic in 100 years, scientists say.

Our star is now at “solar maximum,” the peak phase of its 11-year activity cycle. But this solar max is weak, and the overall current cycle, known as Solar Cycle 24, conjures up comparisons to the famously feeble Solar Cycle 14 in the early 1900s, researchers said.

“None of us alive have ever seen such a weak cycle. So we will learn something,” Leif Svalgaard of Stanford University told reporters here today (Dec. 11) at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union. [Solar Max: Amazing Sun Storm Photos of 2013]

 

The learning has already begun. For example, scientists think they know why the solar storms that have erupted during Solar Cycle 24 have caused relatively few problems here on Earth.

The sun often blasts huge clouds of superheated particles into space, in explosions known as coronal mass ejections (CMEs). Powerful CMEs that hit Earth squarely can trigger geomagnetic storms, which in turn can disrupt radio communications, GPS signals and power grids.

But such effects have rarely been seen during Solar Cycle 24, even though the total number of CMEs hasn’t dropped off much, if at all. The explanation, researchers said, lies in the reduced pressure currently present in the heliosphere, the enormous bubble of charged particles and magnetic fields that the sun puffs out around itself.

This lower pressure has allowed CMEs to expand greatly as they cruise through space, said Nat Gopalswamy of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. Indeed, Solar Cycle 24 CMEs are, on average, 38 percent bigger than those measured during the last cycle — a difference with real consequences for folks here on Earth.

“When the CMEs expand more, the magnetic field inside the CMEs has lower strength,” Gopalswamy said. “So when you have lower-strength magnetic fields, then they cause milder geomagnetic storms.”

Scientists also think they know why relatively few super-fast solar energetic particles, or SEPS, have been measured in Earth’s neighborhood during the current cycle, which began in early 2008. It has to do with a weakened interplanetary magnetic field, another characteristic of Solar Cycle 24, they say.

Large SEP events, which can pose a danger to astronauts in Earth orbit, are created by the shock waves driven by CMEs. But fewer of these particles are getting accelerated by such shocks these days, said Joe Giacalone of the University of Arizona.

“When the magnetic field is weaker, the particles are not trapped near the shock as effectively,” Giacalone said. “They’re going much farther upstream and downstream of the shock wave, and it takes a lot longer for them to get to very high energies.”

The strength or weakness of a solar cycle appears to be driven by the intensity of the sun’s polar magnetic field during the previous cycle. The polar field is thought to feed the sunspots— dark and relatively cool patches on the sun that are the source of CMEs and solar flares — that come in during the next cycle, Gopalswamy said.

The polar field was weak during Solar Cycle 23, so researchers suspected that Solar Cycle 24 would be underwhelming. Predictions about Solar Cycle 25 should start coming in two or three years, when the polar field reappears, Svalgaard said.

Space.com



28 Comments on "Sun Is Weakest in a Century"

  1. BillT on Sat, 14th Dec 2013 12:59 am 

    Interesting, but the flare that happened recently, and missed us, was a super big one that would have done real electronic harm. The more we learn the less we seem to really know.

  2. rollin on Sat, 14th Dec 2013 2:50 am 

    The sun, a G2V main sequence yellow dwarf star, nicknamed Sol by some portions of the fuzzy/smelly stuff coating portions of the third planet orbiting it. Sol’s energy distribution peaks at 5778 K in the electromagnetic spectrum with minor variations in output. Sol also occasionally ejects high speed ionized particles in small amounts. Some portions of the fuzzy/smelly coating on the third planet seem overly concerned about these ejections and variations. This is understandable since these portions have not fully grasped the ephemeral nature of individuals and species types in the greater fuzzy/smelly growth.
    In more mundane language “Here today, gone tomorrow.”
    What you going to do about it anyway? If the variations suddenly get large or solar storms excessive, not much to do but freeze and cook or live without electricity.

  3. surf on Sat, 14th Dec 2013 3:29 am 

    The authors of the book”The neglected Sun” predicted this. The sun is known to have 3 cycles, a 10 year, 20year, and 500year cycle. When these cycles overlap solar output can get stronger or weaker. The authors don’t expect solar output increase until about 2030.

    The authors also point out that all climate models assume the suns output is constant. Based on this error in the models the authors believe the IPCC have overestimated the warming effect of CO2 by about 50%.

    http://www.amazon.com/The-Neglected-Sun-Precludes-Catastrophe/dp/1909022241

  4. dissident on Sat, 14th Dec 2013 6:30 am 

    50% from a +/-0.15 W/m^2 variation on a 1366 W/m^2 average over the last 60 years? What utter childish garbage. Really, people, do a Google search comparing the heat trapping from CO2 vs solar variation.

    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2007/08/the-co2-problem-in-6-easy-steps/

  5. GregT on Sat, 14th Dec 2013 7:18 am 

    “Based on this error in the models the authors believe the IPCC have overestimated the warming effect of CO2 by about 50%.”

    Don’t you mean underestimated? If the Sun’s output is less than expected, and we are still experiencing a warming trend, wouldn’t that mean that solar activity is masking the true impact of climate change?

  6. surf on Sat, 14th Dec 2013 8:16 am 

    The sun’s output was increasing from about 1970 to 2000. All climate models were calibrated to match observations during that period but they assumed constant solar output. Since 2000 solar output has dropped and there appears to be a significant slowing of global warming. Current models cannot explain the the slow warming since 2000. Yet 300 years of sunspot observations shows a strong correlation between the number of sun spots and temperature. Sunspot levels are very low right now.

    UV light output from the sun changes 1.5% from solar maxima to solar minimum. Almost all of that UV light is absorbed by the upper atmosphere. Increased UV levels causes changes to the ozone layer and the atmosphere to expands, affecting the orbits of some satellites. UV output appear to have increased by 3% since the little ice age 300 years ago.

    During periods of high solar activity the solar magnetic field is stronger and as a result cosmic radiation levels drop. During periods of low solar activity cosmic radiation levels increase. Lab experiments have shown that cosmic rays can influence cloud formation in the atmosphere. Comparing satellite images of clouds with cosmic radiation levels does appear to show a correlation. Increased cosmic radiation levels can increase cloud cover, and the clouds could reflect more sunlight causing cooling.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_variation

  7. Meld on Sat, 14th Dec 2013 8:43 am 

    Seems to make sense that this would make CC slow down. Once the sun picks up I would imagine CC will go into overdrive. Although it might be another very lucky coincidence that this happens just as industrial productions starts to decline and so by 2030 we are not in as bad shape as we could have been CC wise.

  8. Arthur on Sat, 14th Dec 2013 8:45 am 

    Forget about man made global warming, it is a myth; watch second video with lecture from Vahrenholt, the author of The neglected sun:

    http://deepresource.wordpress.com/2013/11/03/fritz-vahrenholt-there-is-no-man-made-climate-change/

    The arctic ice sheet is rapidly growing again, yesterday there was snow in Egypt with temperatures of 8 degrees Celcius and NO heating whatsoever. Conditions not seen in 112 years.

    Global warming is a nice tool for politicians with globalist designs like Al Gore.

  9. BillT on Sat, 14th Dec 2013 9:30 am 

    Really Arthur? Interesting that 95 % of the world’s scientists, say it is a fact and that humans are a big cause of it. I guess the polar warming and the oceans heating up is just our imagination? Tell that to the people who now are experiencing diseases and pests that have moved with the weather/temperature changes.

    BTW: Among Fritz Vahrenholt’s previous positions “… was on the Board of Deutsche Shell AG, a Shell subsidiary … (then he)_ … was CEO of electric power company RWE subsidiary RWE Innogy until 2012. Do you see the connection here?

    Amazing what you can learn on the internet if you just look. ALWAYS look at who signs the paycheck…ALWAYS!

  10. Terry Mcnamie on Sat, 14th Dec 2013 11:19 am 

    Hmm I guess releasing millions of years of stored carbon into the atmosphere doesn’t have any effect then Arthur? Could it be that CC has slowed down exactly because of this solar effect. You’ll also note that CC is the temp difference between the air and the sea creating more energy and thus more extreme weather (hence the reason the name was changed) I don’t know about you but the weather is the wildest my home town has ever seen. We were flooded for the first time in recorded history last year after a rain storm of colossal proportions . I tend to use my own senses and data to determine whether something is real or not, and CC is most definitely happening.

  11. Norm on Sat, 14th Dec 2013 12:16 pm 

    The weak output of the sun is caused by humans and industrial civilization. The corona layer of the sun is now choked with dry cleaning solvents, PCB’S, and oil spills. It has interfered with normal solar fusion reactions, lowering solar output
    . Vote for me, and as your elected representative I will restore full solar output.

  12. dissident on Sat, 14th Dec 2013 2:57 pm 

    surf, you are spouting BS. The solar output from 1950 to the 2000s was such that the solar constant was an average of 1366 W/m^2 and the variation was +/-0.15 W/m^2. No increase whatsoever and clearly no ramp up since 1980 when the temperatures really started to ramp up.

  13. Arthur on Sat, 14th Dec 2013 3:31 pm 

    Okay, okay, “global warming is a myth” is maybe a little too blunt. Let’s fall back on my previous position being ‘climate change agnostic’, but with strong skeptical undertones.

    Really Arthur? Interesting that 95 % of the world’s scientists, say it is a fact and that humans are a big cause of it.

    Haha, you (and I) love to sneer about these 95% of fusion scientists, who claim that their technology will function within a decade or two, please send money. Let’s apply the same logic to ‘climate scientists’ as well then. Climate alarmism is very good for their funding too.

    BTW: Among Fritz Vahrenholt’s previous positions “… was on the Board of Deutsche Shell AG, a Shell subsidiary … (then he)_ … was CEO of electric power company RWE subsidiary RWE Innogy until 2012. Do you see the connection here?
    Amazing what you can learn on the internet if you just look. ALWAYS look at who signs the paycheck…ALWAYS!

    While I acknowledge that there usually is a strong connection between the identity of the organisation sending the paycheck and the tune sang by the recipient of said paycheck, I am afraid that in this case I have to accuse you a little of cherry-picking Vahrenholtz’ CV:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fritz_Vahrenholt

    He has been a green-lefty environmentalist all his life and still is; he was indeed on the board of Shell for 3 years before he became a CEO of the wind turbine company REpower Systems AG.

    So I don’t think you can use his CV to make the point that he is a climate skeptic because he is a Shell-bot. As surf says, climate models assume a constant solar influx. But we are living in a universe where, apart from taxes and death, nothing is constant. I don’t find it far-fetched at all that output fluctuations of that gigantic fusion reactor next door (in this case operating without subsidies from Brussels or Washington) called the sun, would have a far more profound influence on the thermal state of our atmosphere than the question whether there are 0.2 or 0.4 CO2 molecules per 1000 ‘air molecules’.

    Global warming causes me to yawn, since we are running out of fossil fuel anyway.

  14. Arthur on Sat, 14th Dec 2013 4:59 pm 

    Pictures from… Egypt!

    http://www.infowars.com/snow-in-the-middle-east-amazing-photos-tell-the-story/

    Will give Al Gore…

    whatreallyhappened . com/IMAGES/gorecicle.jpg

    …a heart attack.

  15. rollin on Sat, 14th Dec 2013 7:37 pm 

    Total irradiance of the sun has changed less than 0.1% since the Maunder minimum. Variation of the total irradiance of the sun during solar cycles is about 0.1%. That is about 0.25 W/m2 peak to peak variation at the surface, far smaller than GWG effects, albedo changes and most other factors. Considering the solar cycle is a variation and averages out to a null over time, I do not see it being a factor in warming.
    Of course in a billion years the slow buildup of output from the sun will be a factor, but for some reason I am not concerned.

  16. Arthur on Sat, 14th Dec 2013 7:54 pm 

    There have been several ice ages, far more dramatic than what we arewitnessing now, without human disturbance of the environment, as far as we know.

  17. Bob Inget on Sat, 14th Dec 2013 8:46 pm 

    I’m as tired of arguing about AGW, a done deal, it’s irreversible.

    Continued scapegoating of natural phenomenon is to some degree a vast improvement over absolute “hoax” arguments so popular even on this board today.

    Don’t you get it?

    How we got here is no where as important as WHEN we begin to cope.
    How many more superstorms are we to take
    up victim collections, hit send on the cell, guilt gone, till the next climate calamity. Just like church, wipe away sins by saving souls. My favorite
    black minister used to say: with ‘quiet money’. Obviously ‘quiet money’ doesn’t
    jingle.. more to the point, a few bucks
    does wonders for amorialiating guilt.

  18. mike on Sat, 14th Dec 2013 8:49 pm 

    Well, Arthur, (Arthur Seyss-Inquart II by any chance?) revealing to everyone your utter ignorance of climatic science as you have above, has assured us of your ignorance on other matters you frequently like to sound off about. “Global warming is a nice tool for politicians with globalist designs like Al Gore.” That coming from someone who speaks like a latter day member of the NSB, is pretty rich – we know what the ambitions of their brothers in the NSDAP were, don’t we. “There have been several ice ages, far more dramatic than what we arewitnessing now, without human disturbance of the environment, as far as we know.” Maybe. But that will be no comfort to the people of the Netherlands , thge lowest country on earth, as the ice caps melt and se level rises – as a result of “human disturnance of the environment”.

  19. Arthur on Sat, 14th Dec 2013 8:51 pm 

    rollin, Vahrenholtz does not deny the reality of CO2 induced global warming, he merely says that effect is exagerated.

    Nor does he explain temperature variations purely as a direct consequence from indeed small differences in irradiation. He works with a complex model, involving clouds, radiation reflection and changing ocean current patterns, too complex to reproduce here.

    Core conclusion: temperature increase will be minimal.

  20. Arthur on Sat, 14th Dec 2013 9:05 pm 

    It looks like mike is busy with a personal vendetta, and not since today, including vulgar name calling. Not that I care.

  21. GregT on Sat, 14th Dec 2013 9:19 pm 

    “Core conclusion: temperature increase will be minimal.”

    We have exceeded numerous all time temperature records at home this year. Some by as much as 15 degrees C. Everyone here is talking about CC now. I very rarely meet deniers anymore. Most people are very concerned, as they should be.

  22. Manuel Lopez on Sat, 14th Dec 2013 10:24 pm 

    “BillT on Sat, 14th Dec 2013 9:30 am …
    Really Arthur? Interesting that 95 % of the world’s scientists, say it is a fact …”

    At some time more than 99% of the people thought the Earth was flat.
    At some time more than 99% of people thought the Earth was the center of the Universe and the Sun moved around it.
    The epicycles were adequate to compute astronomical events BUT to use that correctness to assume from there that the Sun revolves around the Earth is wrong.
    At some time Wegener was the only one that believed that the continents were moving. Later on he was proved correct.
    For many years everybody believed that Newton’s mechanic was the right one …until Einstein arrived.
    As some people have said: Science is not democratic.

  23. rollin on Sat, 14th Dec 2013 11:49 pm 

    from Arthur “rollin, Vahrenholtz does not deny the reality of CO2 induced global warming, he merely says that effect is exagerated. ”

    Everyone has the right to be wrong in science, Vahrenholtz is that wrong.

  24. BillT on Sun, 15th Dec 2013 12:24 am 

    Mauuel, Really? Pretend it isn’t happening all you want. I don’t care. But please use a better rebuttal than the ‘flat earth’ dark ages. Look around you. Read the news. Super storms, diseases moving north, disappearing ice, record temps, weird weather, etc. This in a connected world, not the 1500s. I agree. Ignorance is bliss. Ask the dodo.

  25. peak_yeast on Sun, 15th Dec 2013 1:44 am 

    I would like the same people to explain why this warm period started – including all the previous ones and why they stopped.

    It certainly wasnt human civilisation. And our contribution is utterly minimal compared to the natural variations.

    Also – IF indeed the human civilisation has done this – how much should we reduce our CO2 output? As I see it – it would be necessary to reduce it so much most of humankind would perish.

    GOOD LUCK with making that happen on a voluntary basis.

    I think the americans should be first movers and remove themselves from the equation since they have used to much to almost no good and seems intent on continuing this approach.

  26. Manuel Lopez on Sun, 15th Dec 2013 9:47 pm 

    BillT on Sun, 15th Dec 2013 12:24 am
    “Mauuel, Really? Pretend it isn’t happening all you want. I don’t care. But please use a better rebuttal than the ‘flat earth’ dark ages. Look around you.”

    It’s a pity you didn’t read the whole sentence. It run the gamut from ancient times to the present (Wegener and Einstein, for example) Many times in my math lectures I have asked questions to my students where the wrong answers
    were in minority. It’s one of the things that you have to convey to future researchers: You have to be always ready to switch camp when new information is available.
    Let’s make it clear: It doesn’t mean you must switch camp, it means one has to be willing to throw out your cherished, hard to get ideas, when (if) they are proved wrong.

  27. GregT on Mon, 16th Dec 2013 12:52 am 

    peak_yeast,

    All of the information that you request, is already available to you. All you have to do is look.

    We are at a major crossroads in human existence on this planet. We are faced with an epic dilemma. There is no easy way out, and there is no comfortable solution.

    Actually, we may very well be past the point of no return already. Time will tell.

  28. curt lampkin on Mon, 16th Dec 2013 5:38 pm 

    This weak solar cycle is also responsible for the noticeable global cooling now occurring. Every week more evidence arises that ‘Global warming” is natural not permanent . We have wasted trillions of dollars on an imaginary crisis

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